It snowed last night! Does this mean I can put up the Christmas tree already?!
Christmas* can be a tough time to stay on track with your budget. Not only are there tons of gifts to buy, but you might be traveling for the holiday season so you'll be purchasing plane or train tickets, gas for your car, or maybe even a few nights at a hotel. These costs can quickly add up andderail your financial goals.
But the holidays shouldn't be stressful- they should be happy! I'm no travel hacking expert, so I can't claim to help you save money on travel... but I might be able to save you on the gift thing. I know that there is wayyy more to the holiday season than spending all your time in the crowded mall buying overpriced gifts.
So.. how can you save money on gift-giving?
Can you cut back?
I assume** that the reason you buy presents for people is (hopefully) that they are your close friends or relatives. If you're working on paying off a massive debt, do you think you could you tell them that you will be doing gifts under $10 this year? Or homemade gifts? Or perhaps that you're opting-out entirely?
If they really are your close friends/relatives, they will understand. At the very worst, they will buy you extravagant gifts anyway, and you may feel momentarily awkward giving nothing in return. At the very best, your family or friends will consider your decision and realize that you are brilliant! They will quickly return all the pricey presents they had purchased and commit to a thriftier holiday.
See? Even the worst case scenario isn't bad. If someone does get upset, perhaps it's a blessing in disguise. You'll quickly see that they may not be an ideal person to have around during your financial journey.
Can you make gifts more meaningful?
A recent post by Cash Rebel got me thinking: he's come up with something called the Shop Local/DIY Challenge. If you're going to be giving gifts this holiday season, can you either 1) purchase from a local business or 2) create the gift yourself? You're still getting people gifts, but they're far more meaningful (and/or good for the local economy) this way.
As someone who is slightly addicted to Target and Amazon.com, this would be a difficult challenge for me. Luckily, our new neighborhood is walking distance to tons of cute little local shops which I could use to do my holiday shopping. And DIY gifts are always a great idea! I think I might join Cash Rebel for this challenge.
Can you shake up tradition?
A few months ago, Phoebe at All You Need is Enough posted a book review on Debt-Proof Your Christmas. I haven't read the book, but it sounds like it would be a great read at this time of year. Phoebe says that the book really gets you to think about your holiday goals and gives you ideas for things like homemade gifts, purchasing gifts in advance, or creating new holiday traditions.
She says that one of the ideas that the book mentions is a Secret Santa exchange. This is exactly what my family did last year and it turned out to be a spectacular success! Instead of buying presents for the 6 other adults in my family, I only needed to buy a gift for one adult in our family. I still purchased gifts for my nieces, closest girl friends, and Mike. Because I was buying so many less presents, I was able to spend more time coming up with the presents that I did give, making everything much more meaningful.
Think about it...
With Christmas only 41 days away, take a few minutes to think about how you could revamp your holiday gift-giving this year. This season is about so much more than presents, so don't waste your time and money stressing out about them!
* I'm going to be politically incorrect and just use Christmas as the umbrella term for all holidays. Please feel free to substitute any event (religious or non-) where gifts are exchanged.
** The alternative to this assumption is that you are buying presents for people who you really are NOT close with, in which case you should QUICKLY RETURN ALL PRESENTS. There's no good reason to spend massive amounts of money on people you don't even have a close relationship with. It won't build your relationship. And if it does, they may be materialistic and you probably don't want to pursue a relationship with them. Just sayin'...